Hunt for a Mean-Fellow -Late Ilarani Singh (Maithili Story “Kupurushak Khoj” by Late Ilarani Singh translated into English by Vishwajeet Kumar Singh)

Hunt For A Mean Fellow (कुपुरुषक खोज)
Translated by: Vishwajeet K Singh

Translator’s Note

The present story “Hunt for a mean-fellow” is the translation of “Kupurushak Khoj” – a Maithili short story published in a collection of fables entitled “tatka gap” in the year 1964 by Maithili Art Press, Kolkota. The stories published in the handbook are an exercise to document the oral tradition of story telling in Mithiilaanchal. They reflect the age-old interesting customs practiced in Mithiilaa families with an essence of witty humor and fulsome entertainment. The title of the original text, “tatka gap”: itself refers to the cultural exercise of story telling in a family get-together. Overtly, these stories belonging to the genre of “tatka gap” always have the elements of laughter, irony, sarcasm etc, but covertly, they all have one or the other moral at the end of the story. Thus, I can say that it falls into category of “Gonu Jha’s Stories” and “Birabal’s Stories”. Because of this nature of these stories, they are never old, and rather, they are always told-retold and enjoyed in all generations with basically slight change or no change at all, in the story line.

The present translation is again a similar effort, supposed to fill the gap of cultural knowledge in the newer generations, especially, when the modern technologies have set the society at the pace of digital age. Translation becomes more important in these situations, especially for them, who stay away from their native culture across the time and space and are educated in urban set-up and sometimes in a foreign set-up, totally cut off from their own culture. It also becomes important for foreigners interested in knowing a popular culture, such as “Mithiilaa Culture” for any number of reasons. In this case, there are socio-cultural motivations, which inspire a translator to render the original text in a target language, such as English—the global language; to popularize precious aspects of a culture and find a place for it in the global cultural market.

In this work, since I happen to have strong affiliations with Mithiilaa culture, translation of this text becomes more relevant from a socio-linguistic perspective. Fishman, a socio-linguist formulates:

A translator need learn “who speaks what to whom, where and why.”

The answer to these questions supports my position as a translator (WHO) of a Maithili text (WHAT), especially when it is matter of preserving the essentialities of the source text both of matter and manner. The answer is very much clear from the fact that these stories are immensely popular in their original form in its native socio-cultural context. It becomes significantly paramount to render it to the target audience—here the Mithiilaa people (WHOM) across the globe, at the point of time (WHEN), they are distanced from their native culture and to offer them the aroma of the their cultural values and uniqueness (WHY).

Despite all the theoretical positions and translatorial practices such as the above, there are possibilities that the translation of a cultural text does not suffice the purpose of the audience. Of course, it is difficult to retain the joy and thrill of the original in English, however it is not totally impossible. Says Jakobson’s:

“All cognitive experience and its classification are conveyable in any existing language. Whenever there is deficiency, terminology may be qualified, and amplified, by loanwords or loan translations, neologisms, or semantic shifts, and finally by circumlocutions.”
--Jakobson, Roman; On Linguistic Aspects of Translation;(1966), Oxford University Press, NY.

The above view suggests that there is always possibility to render a text in any language, may be it is not possible to render it depending fully on the target language, but then, a translator is free to use various tools to meet his/her goal. Perhaps, this creates a space for the genetic mutation of a language in terms of R. K. Narayan. Keeping in view all the points, which make a translation successful, I have cruised through the marvelous piece of the story “kupurushak khoj”.

The original text “Kupurushak Khoj” was authored by Ilarani Singh, a contemporary of Mayanand Mishra and Kanchinath Mishra, is an author by hobby. She uses a unique diction of her own in conveying her message in a dialect of Maithili spoken in Northwest Mithiilaanchal. It has the cultural connotations widely entertained in the Mithiilaa, for which, there are hardly single English expressions. Yet, I have made a novice and humble effort to depict the humorous and cultural beauty of her story, bringing the translation as close to the original as possible within the idiom and expression of the English language.

While doing translation, I have made every attempt to avoid loss of meaning and message loaded in original text. I have used the culture-specific expressions as it is in the original to give the reader the essence of original text. To help them, I have used annotations as and when required without breaking the fluency and rhythm of the story.

I have taken some liberty by collating short sentences and phrases without losing the images—the reeling effect of the story absorbing the reader but not at the cost of the original flavor. Prof Kapoor’s (teaching at JNU, New Delhi) comment regarding this is noteworthy:

“Such distortions of ideas can be fatal—they lead to a complete misunderstanding of a system of ideas”

An extreme care has been taken to avoid succumbing to English and to sustain the very purpose of translation. Since Maithili falls into a category of languages, which have verbless expressions, I have to, sometimes, expand the hidden meaning in the original text to make it equate in English in terms of meaning.

English and Maithili, though, belong to one language family—Indo-European, they are distantly related to each other and have least similarity at surface level. There are extreme variations at structural level also. Take an example of intonation pattern—English uses a different pattern compared with Maithili to express the same information. To achieve the equivalence at meaning level, in Nida’s terms, I have rendered sentences in accordance to retain the original taste. Of course, it always helps to have efficiency in both the source and target languages, specially, when you are translating text of your culture into a target language.

Despite all my efforts, there are occasions when I have failed to capture the meaning of honorificity conveyed through Maithili in English translation. Maithili being rich in honorific terms and inflexions sounds very sweet, which I cannot convey through any of the English expressions and bring the aesthetic pleasure. Similarly, I faced troubles translating gender-specific terms. Since, Maithili being practiced in patriarchal society, it has gender-biased terms. I do not know why everything when personified in the story e.g. bird, utensil, food etc, as a default, gets masculine gender. It is really tough for me to construe the biasedness. Instead of my personal resistance, I have rendered translation in consonance with the original text and have not manipulated them for my personal set of beliefs.

While translating I have also to work with the fabric of the story, which seems to have gaps in its structure. It is, perhaps, because of author’s limitations. I have brought certain change in the style and form of story for the proper navigation.

Except a few hitches, I am sure that the story will bind the Mithiilaa people in closer bonds of love and understanding of their culture, irrespective of time and space distance. May be, it makes Mithiilaa culture more palatable and impresses the others also to the unexplored virgin land of Mithiilaanchal full of legends and mysteries and above all, the hospitability.

Vishwajeet Kumar Singh
MA (LIN), IV-SEM, JNU.

Hunt for a Mean-Fellow

Long back when King Dasharatha ruled Ayodhya, Ramchandra, the eldest son of the king Dasharatha, in his early after-marriage life, had been to Janakpur, then used to be a part of Mithiilaanchal, now in Nepal. Ramchandra, now onwards Ram, was immensely impressed by the treatment extended to him by his in-laws—father-in-law, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. He got lost in the very love and affection offered to him. The delicious dishes—makhaanak khiir1, bhetak laawaa2 etc; cooked in Mithiilaa style, arrested him. Apart from the dishes, the melodious song sequences followed by every meal was just something, he never imagined.

Everyday varieties of surprise items and varieties of titillating affairs. Ram, consequently, had not a single thought of Ayodhya, back his home. Perhaps, this is what happens at in-laws’. Week after week passed, month after month passed, Ram never thought of returning home.

Back in Ayodhya, the King Dasharatha was terribly worried about Ram. Dasharatha smelt the central problem and suspected if Ram turned to be a “ghar-jamaai3”. He consulted the family teacher Vashishtha and in his consultation, he sent an errand with a letter to King Janaka. Through that the King Dasharatha expected Janaka to send him four items—a nasty bird, a horrible-food, a useless-utensil and a mean-fellow.
1makhaanak khiir: a kind of pudding, a fruit grown in lake-water boiled in milk served as dessert
2bhetak laawaa: flakes of special kind of fruit grown in Mithila
3ghar jamaai: a son-in-law, who lives at in-laws’ and does not return home to his parents




Receiving the letter, King Janak got lost—what to do and what not to do. He called up the minister and asked him to gather the four items demanded. The matter spread like jungle fire. Everyone around started looking for the items one by one. The councilors suggested going for a nasty-bird first. Some of them suggested a crow “kauwa” fit for the purpose.

The crow was summoned to the court. The minister commanded him to go to Ayodhya, “It’s no use staying here, dear crow. They say that you are a nasty-bird.”

The crow reacted, “Honorable minister, how I can be a nasty-bird!? We always wake people up early in the morning. We clean the places killing harmful, disease-spreading insects.” He added, “Pandits call us Futurists. How come, we are nasty”.

The minister shot back, “Then, who is the nasty-bird?”

The crow replied, “Owl is the nasty-bird. He hides round the day to escape any labour. He makes faces at others and never serves any social purpose.”

The minister agreed and ordered owls to go to Ayodhya. Then came the turn of the horrible-food. The councilors named Marua4. The poor Marua was summoned.

Marua said, “We are not the horrible food. In stead, we are the food for the poor—the only food support for the poor.” He added, “Without us, the poor populace of Mithiilaa shall die” and
4Marua: a kind of cereal grown in infertile land, similar to the size of mustard seeds and black in color. It is used to get flour.

explained, “When we are served with fish, they devour it afresh” and further he explained, “ we are grown up anywhere. We are ready without any wastage of time. People get it any time”.

“How I can be the horrible food.” clarified Marua.

The minister asked, “Then, who is the horrible food?”
Marua answered, “Kushiar5 is the horrible food. It is difficult to grow. The poor cannot touch it because it is very costly. ”

The minister agreed and commanded the Kushiar to go to Ayodhya. Now, it was the turn of a useless-utensil. On the advice of the councilors, Khapari6 was summoned.

The minister told to Khapari, “Your are a useless-utensil, so you must leave for Ayodhya. King Dasharatha is in great need of you.”

Khapari reacted, similar to others, “How come, I am useless?! In my absence, can you roast anything? The poor live their lives on bhuja-phutaha7 only. Don’t think me to be useless, just because I look blackish and brownish.” He asserted, “ I am a very useful item.”


5Kushiaar: sugar cane grown for sugar and jaggery
6Khapari: a broken earthen pot used to bake bread etc.
7bhujaa-phutahaa: cereals and grams roasted and served as a part of evening break.


The minister once agreed and asked, “Then, who is a useless-utensil?”

Khapari argued, “Sir, Piyaalaa8 is a useless utensil. It is used to drink daaruu-taarii9. He makes people irreligious and digress them” and continued, “better, send him to Ayodhya.”

The minister agreed and asked Piyaalaa to go to Ayodhya. Lastly, it was the turn of a mean-fellow. Councilors discussed it. Someone suggested “nat10” to be a mean-fellow. Nat was summoned and asked to go to Ayodhya.

Nat, on the same line, put his side, “How come, I am a mean-fellow. I entertain all the people through my art” and further explained, “I keep my physique so flexible for public-shows, and besides that, I belong to Rishi Bharat’s clan.”

The minister agreed in his usual style and asked, “Then, it’s better, you tell us. Who the mean-fellow is? ”
Nat replied, “The mean-fellow is one, who lives at in-laws’ and whiles away the precious time.” and he demanded, “Is there no one in Janakpur? Someone at in-laws’.”
8Piyaalaa: a cup used to serve wine and other liquors
9 daaruu-taarii: juice yielded from the palm tree and served as a part of intoxicant after fermentation
10 nat: someone who is similar to a eunuch




There went the bell. Everyone in the court was dumbstruck. Ram, too, was in the court and he took no time learning the fact. Next morning, at the dawn only, which fell to be the day of Madhushravani11, he set out for Ayodhya without paying any heed to the invitations proffered by in-laws.

11Madhushravani: a socio-religious occasion, generally celebrated after marriage at married daughter’s home in the beginning five to seven years. Son-in-law is invited by in-laws for the rituals.

Devil Blessed Us-Shyam darihare (Devil Blessed Us- Maithili story by Shyam darihare, translated by Praveen k Jha )

(Devil Blessed Us- Maithili story by Shyam darihare, translated by Praveen k Jha )
The police chief had just left and the Supremo was about to retire for the day when a guard entered and saluted. Moving his neck-tied glasses to his eyes, the Supremo asked, 'now what'?
'Sir, B TV's owner has been waiting outside for long to call on', replied the guard politely.

'I won't see any TV guy right now. Ask him to come later. And with an appointment.' Said the supremo climbing stairs of his mansion.

'Sir, he is not here for an interview, but for a redressal. His nephew has been abducted.' the guard explained.

Supremo halted his steps. He turned his head, 'abducted? Nephew? How? When?'
'He didn't tell me all that', guard said humbly.
'Alright, have him wait into the outer drawing room. I will be right back'. Saying, supremo went upstairs, immediately called his brother-in-law and asked,'man! How could you kidnap B TV's owner's nephew?'

Santlal was stunned. Said,'what you sayin, Monsieur? My team got only a doctor in our custody and Monsieur has already been informed of that. We know nothin 'bout no B TV's owner's kin. My team don't touch no one without my permission, monsieur. Me sure some other team gotta done that.'
Supremo's eyes turned red. Said he,'Only your team has the wherewithal to pull this kind of a job through. No other team is authorized to lay their hands on such a figure. Contact B team, C team, D team right away and let me know within ten minutes who has him. Meanwhile, I will meet the B TV's owner and engage him in conversation.'
Angrily, supremo inserted three pints of paan instead of usual two and started downstairs grumbling,'these bastards want to gulp all the ransom all by themselves. Which is why didn't tell me. What they don't understand is they can't challenge the master.'
Supremo brought down his glasses to hang onto his chest from upon the eyes. Spitting a load into the spittoon outside the room, he entered the outer drawing room. B TV's owner and accompanying news editor and senior photographer got on to their feet and greeted him. After the supremo took to his seat, the owner started,' sir, I am B TV's CEO Suresh Bahal...'

'hnn-hnn what, CO?' interrupted the supremo.
'no sir, CEO' Mr. Suresh clarified.
'What's that?' Supremo asked diverting the talk.
'Sir, Chief Executive Officer'.
'Oh that! That what Pakistan's President calls himself and some of the chief ministers here also take pride in doing that' Supremo displayed his treasure of knowledge.
'Yes sir...yes sir' said Mr. Suresh Bahal pleased with his success in explaining. Introducing his colleagues, he said,'Sir, this is our news editor Mr. Mohan Bhatia and...'
Supremo interrupted yet again,'So, Mr. Bhat! What kind of news editing do you do - always finding fault with my state? My family is especially targeted by your TV. Why don't you show something positive once in a while?'
'Like what, sir?' Asked Mr. Bhatia.
'Like what? Why are you asking me that? Can't you see all the healthy fish growing in my pond....? Fisheries industry can be encouraged by that. Potato, onion and cabbage...high varieties of these are grown in my mansion. You won't find such varieties elsewhere. In my dairy, one cow can give thirty liters of milk! All these you can't see! All you do is to criticize!'
Mr. Bhatia was speechless. Understanding that arguing on this matter right now might be extremely harmful to the kidnapped, he folded his hands,'Sorry, sir! I will keep it in mind now on.'
'Yeah, these things should be kept in mind. Who is this third, Mr. CO?, Supremo asked.
'My name is Prabal Mishra. I am a senior photographer with B TV.' The third person introduced himself with folded hands.
'Ohhhh, so it's you, Mr. Prabal Mishra! Isn't it you who came to cover my rally and snapped photos of people squabbling for snacks and fighting each other instead of listening to me! You had interviewed shopkeepers about how my party people extorted contributions from them. What have you come here for today? Wanna snap something spicy? All of you are hands in glove with opposition. Media folks are bent on conspiring to discredit a government of poor and downtrodden...'
Supremo was lecturing them in his signature fashion to terrorize them earlier on so they won't much open their mouth later. Whereas, Mr. Suresh Bahal was shaking to his very core thinking he may have to return empty-handed.
Supremo's dissertation continued,'...especially people of your caste are dead against my government. But photos would do nothing. My government of poor and fallen will go on. Don't dream that I will ever allow a government of your caste in this state. Biggies pundits are falling at my feet in my court and you are out to disrepute me with a mere lens...!' Paan's spit was pouring out of supremo's mouth. A guard ran out and brought a spittoon. He put it along supremo's mouth. Supremo spit it all out along with a piece stuck in his throat. Keeping the spittoon in one hand, the guard passed a napkin with the other. Wiping the red saliva drooling out of his lips, supremo tossed the napkin towards the guard. Using his training skills, the guard caught the napkin with one hand. He looked at the guests anticipating an appreciation of his feat. He couldn't read the disgust and fear splattered on their faces. It didn't matter to him anyway and gloomily he went his way.

Seeing all that gurgling and spit Mr. Suresh Bahal was feeling a little dizzy. Bending his head down he tried to regain his composure and said, 'Sir, we haven't come for an interview today nor to cover any news.'
'Then why are you here? Don't tell me you came to negotiate a marriage because my son is too young and invitation I haven't extended any!' Supremo roared in laughter.

Ignoring the implied insult in his remarks, Mr. Bahal said, 'Sir, my nephew has been abducted. We came to ask for your help.'
'Hnn your nephew has been abducted? When? From where?' Supremo pretended to be surprised.
Pushing in a couple of pints of paan in his mouth out of the bowl kept besides, and topping it with some jarda, the supremo took to digging his ears with a Johnson bud. Mr. Bahal continued, 'Sir, My nephew came to the capital day before yesterday to prepare a special report. He was abducted moments after he came out of the hotel. In front of Mr. Prabal Mishra's eyes four gun-totting men forced him to their car and spirited away.'

Washing off his ear-dirt into the ashtray, the supremo asked,'Did you file a report with the police?'
'No sir.'
'If it happened in front of your photo-man Mr. Mishra, he must have seen the number on the license plate?' Supremo asked apprehensively.
Mr. Prabal Mishra concealed the truth,'no sir. Couldn't catch the no. in all that hustle.'
Supremo heaved a sigh of relief. Mr. Bahal et al became a little hopeful with this sigh. Mr. Bhatia presently said,'Sir, you have such a standing in this state that all bureaucrats and police administration tremble with fear before you.So we thought that reporting the matter to police will unnecessary publicize it and endanger the life of the victim as well as bring disrepute to your government. We suggest you personally ask the police to create a pressure...'
Mr. Suresh Bahal interrupted,'Sir, we haven't even got any call for ransom yet. Had it come, we would have resolved it then and there and wouldn't have bothered you sir.'
'My botheration is immaterial. After all, terrible it is that a journalist has been kidnapped. All this is a conspiracy to discredit my government. I ask you to have faith in me. Yet, it is not a low hanging fruit which you can enjoy immediately. You have to be a little patient.' Supremo assured them.
A guard came in and saluted,'Sir, Madam is calling you upstairs.'
'Can't you see, we are talking?', Supremo rebuked.
'Sir, the Patron has called up' the guard replied unaffected.
'Oh, shouldn't you say that.' saying supremo hurried towards the stairs.
Mr. Bahal looked towards Mr. Prabal Mishra and Mr. Bhatia. Uttered Mr. Prabal Mishra,'The supremo doesn't talk intimate on this phone. There are phones in his bedroom for special conversations.'
Then they all fell silent.
After about ten minutes, Supremo reappeared in the room and said,'All of you should now go. Be patient. I have asked the police chief and have also taken the station officer to task. We should get some information by the evening.'
'When should we come again sir?' Asked Mr. Bahal.
'Call before you come'. Supremo stood up.
No sooner had they left than supremo again ran upstairs. Elder brother-in-law was seated in the upper patio. Supremo yelled at him,'You speak such things on phone? Whole story you started narrating on the phone. You are aware that my enemies are all around. But you don't think. Now tell me what you have found out.'
'Monsieur, me inquired from everyone of my team. The boys swore they took no one except that doctor' Replied Santlal hesitatingly.
'Could you talk to the other teams?' Supremo was turning red.
'Yes, Monsieur, total five targets are in hand – two traders, a doctor, a girl and an unknown big figure.'
'Who did you talk to about that unknown guy?'
'To Nalkatta, monsieur!'
'And he said what', supremo was losing patience.
'He knew not the total thing. But he sure blurted out that his group has laid their hands on a fat target.' Santlal informed.
'Where is this asshole Nalkatta?' Supremo lost his temper.
'Me asked him to find everything and come here straight, monsieur'.
Supremo was not calming down. Shouted he,'Now this bugger Nalkatta is lifting billionaires and you are sitting on your ass. When every team has been alloted their areas then how come this B team has touched this target? What the hell have you been doing? If you are done with it then let me know.'
Santlal was panicking. Couldn't speak a thing.
Supremo's wife presently entered. Sitting besides the supremo, she asked,'What's the matter? What are you yelling at him for?'
'Go mind your own business. Don't you interfere in everything. We are talking something very important.' Supremo was extremely angry.
An orderly came in and informed,'Sir, your cousin is waiting downstairs.'
'That's Nalkatta, monsieur', Santlal spurted happily.
'Since when did he become Nalkatta?' Madam was laughing.
A thin smile came upon supremo's face too. Pinning it towards his wife, he directed,'You should go. I have to reprimand Nalkatta.'
Wife stood up and left.
Nalkatta appeared and laid prostate. Supremo remained unmoved like a stone.
Santlal asked,'What did you find out?'
Nalkatta's voice got stuck in his throat. He started choking. Supremo got up and slapped him hard on his face,'Bastard, now you are grabbing billionaires! Can your ass handle it now?'
'Monsieur, they got him by mistake.' Nalkatta spoke massaging his cheeks.
'How come by mistake?' Santlal inquired.
'Monsieur, they had the information that a hotel owner from Delhi was staying in that hotel and that he had come to attend a wedding. But they held the B. TV man instead by mistake.' Nalkatta gave his explanation.
Supremo again hit him with his foot,'And now do you have the capacity to handle it you motherfu..! Operate only as far as your infrastructure permits.'
Pretending to be Nalkatta's saviour, Santlal proposed, ' Monsieur, they cannot handle such a target. They don't have such large scale arrangement. Pray ask him to transfer the target to my team. I promise there won't be any disparity in sharing the goodies'.
'What share and what goodies! My government may even fall due to abductions of such parties' Shouting, the supremo turned to Nalkatta and ordered him,'Transfer the target to Santlal's team within two hours. Or else each one of you will face encounters'.
Trembling with fear, Nalkatta said,'will do, Monsieur. Right away.'
Nalkatta and Santlal both stood up and started out. Supremo asked from behind,'I will take the next step only after getting confirmation about the transfer, remember that.'
When they left, Supremo was so ecstatic on his skillful diplomacy that he laughed out,'These assholes think they are chiefs. I would let them take away this party of forty-fifty million and and I will always be on thirty percent? Give me all of it this time, you bloodyfools.'
It was just over half an hour that two party members of parliament and two assembly members came over. Supremo was going to have his lunch. He said to his wife,' These suckers don't understand what hour it is. Wandering around all the time. Must be some transfer-posting recco. Wait for a few minutes. Let me drive'em out first.'

Entering the meeting hall, the supremo inquired,' Aha..ha...how came all the four musketeers together?'
'Sir, the matters have gone to such an extent that it forced us to be here today.' An assembly member replied.
'Why, what happened?' Supremo asked.
'Sir, this abduction industry is growing thick and fast in the whole province' A member of parliament expressed worry.
Supremo roared with laughter and said,'Ain't that better! Opposition says that our government is not allowing any industry to come up. Go and tell'em don't we have the abduction industry growing fast and furious!'
All these four people's representatives have been known admirer of his witty remarks. But presently they all maintained their sorry posture.
Asked the supremo again,'Why these long faces?'
'Sir, just two days ago, a gangster forced one Mr. Mishra's daughter out of her home and forcibly married her. The girl kept howling horribly but no one came to her rescue out of fear of the stengun.' Spoke one member of parliament.
'Yeah..yeah the police superintendent mentioned this to me yesterday only. The search is on. Now he has married her and has kept her for the last two days...do you think she would be pristine by now that you folks are getting so distressed? Now she has to live with him be it a gangster or a gentleman like you. These brahmins can even turn an impure one to a pristine one. You guys close your eyes and ears and relax. There will be some uproar for a few days and then all will be calm. People do not have more time than that.'
'But the media is bellowing with rage' Second assembly member said.
Supremo gave him a hard glance,'if you were such a coward then why did you join politics? Thicken your skin.'
'But some response has to be there', said the first member of parliament again.
'Response has to be there so let it be there! Say that when Veerappan was abducting people no one showed any concern. And in this rule of the poor and downtrodden, the moment there is a crime, everyone starts shouting. This is a opposition conspiracy. People of this state are closely watching how they are bent on discrediting a government of the poor and the downtrodden. The exploited and troubled people will definitely avenge this of those conspirators.' Thus providing enough armor to his representatives to fight the media, the Supremo moved out for his lunch.
The representatives too went their ways satisfied praising their leader's offensive politics.
As they were leaving, Supremo had assured them further,'Folks, do not be afraid of the media. Our voters don't read newspapers, so let them write whatever they want to. Nevertheless, I have instructed the superintendent to hold a press briefing in the evening.'
Two notable things happened in the evening. The superintendent declared to the press,'the girl was not abducted, it is a love lorn case.'
The media asked,'But the girl was wailing and the stengun-totting criminals forcibly took her away. It's been two days. What has the police been doing?'
The superintendent had replied,'Even a super power like America has not been able to catch Osama Bin Laden despite all their efforts, how do you expect us to catch the kidnappers so quickly? We are trying. Please wait.'

Secondly, Supremo was informed by Santlal that the B. TV target has been moved to a safehouse. No police or media can ever trace him there.
Supremo immediately counseled Santlal,'Now don't forget that you are also a people's representative, so do not ever bring the target to your own house and yes, negotiate the ransom yourself by phone. Do not start below seventy million. Hide the vehicle used in the abduction in a secured garage. This Mishra must have read the numbers.'

After sunset, Mr. Suresh Bahal alone presented himself in supremo's court in this high-security zone. When in private, he informed,'Sir, someone called on my cell from a public phone a while ago. The kidnappers are asking for seventy million.'
Supremo expressed surprise,'I can't believe how shameless these criminals have become! Seventy million! Who asks for this kind of a figure in a ransom! Don't you worry. I am calling the police chief right here in front of you. They will beat the hell out of them. Never seen so daring criminals. Oh my God! This is now crossing limits!'
Mr. Suresh Bahal stopped him,'Sir, please do not tell anything to police. I am sure I am being followed. If you tell police the abductee's life will be in danger.'
'Then what kind of help do you want from me?' The supremo asked. He didn't expect a mediaperson to agree to a ransom so fast.

'Sir, seventy million is too much for me. You are an influential person. You know all kinds of people. You are familiar with all intricacies of this province. Please just let me negotiate through someone. I am ready to pay forty million.' Said Mr. Bahal.
'You are a mediaman. Don't give up so easily. If you pay ransom, they will be even more encouraged. If you hold your ground, I will have the police of entire state go after them big time. But of course, there are always some risks in this kind of campaign. You must be prepared to accept that. If something goes wrong it will be you guys raising all hue and cry.' Supremo extolled the strengths of his administration.
'No sir, we will not raise a voice. Please let me negotiate. It will be a great favor to me. I am arranging for the money.' Saying so, Mr. Bahal left.
How the negotiation took place and finally how much was bargained for, remained a mystery but on the third day Mr. Suresh Bahal's nephew returned safely. The same day, the whole team packed up and escaped out by next flight.
(2002)

where lies the fault-shyam darihare (where lies the fault- maithili story by shyam darihare translated by Praveen k jha)

(where lies the fault- maithili story by shyam darihare translated by Praveen k jha)


High school started from grade eight but there was no high school in my village. Most would study until grade seven but one would have to walk four miles to another village for any further education. You had to cross the same creek twice and the same canal thrice or take a detour of another four miles. So no gals from my remote hamlet would ever go beyond grade seven. Nor many lads. After seven it was mostly farming. But that year I found myself among the few lucky ones who got admitted. If I visualize today how I used to look then in my class, it would be a picture of a ragbag. A corded pant and a namesake shirt. Didn't even think of any footwear. Books bound with farm strands and notepapers sewed with threads.

The first day I was amazed to see so many students in the class. We had only thirteen in my last class in my village but look here, a hundred and three! There was a girl as well sitting in the front. Students grouped themselves as per their villages. Kerwar's student in one, Itahar-Ajnauli in another and Barha's the third one. Tisi Balia was fourth and Simri-Rupauli-Nahas were fifth and sixth. But the group from Persauni and Muralia Chak had the maximum clout. Being local they had the largest numbers.

The first topic of introductory talks was who has topped in which villages and who will top this joint class. My village fellows were trying to intimidate me saying that the girl on the front bench was the topper of Persauni middle school and will undoubtedly break my run at the top. But I was lost somewhere else. The photo of Mrs. Chatterji in the seventh grade english book 'Free India Reader' had exactly the same look as this girl. Same beauty and the long hair. I named her Mrs. Chatterji in my mind. Howsoever those guys tried to provoke me, I didn't feel any jealousy or competition with her. Oh, only if she could befriend me.....! Then I thought of my own dereliction and how I would just look like dirt in front of her. Whatever.

When the B.Sc. Mastersaab Fekan Thakur was teaching in a chemistry class about the three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas, my mind got fixed on the liquid. And when he said, ' In liquid state, the matter takes the shape of its container. It doesn't have its own shape. Put it in a glass, and it becomes like glass, in a bottle, like a bottle and in a bucket, like a bucket.'.
Immediately the thought came in mind, ' yeah, like my mother, aunties et al – My mother like my father, the elder auntie like my uncle, the auntie from Uchhal like Lutti uncle, and my maami (maternal auntie) like my maama. No shape of their own. Shaped as whoever they are married to.'
If there is any shape of their own, its hidden. Lest 'He' would see. Lest 'He' would come to know that she did anything on her own. Or her chastising will be there for all to see. So I concluded that they are all liquids and my uncles their containers.

This thought followed me to the college. When I read about liquid's 'Bhiscosity' in college, again I was reminded of my aunties. If the husband was a muscleman, the wife's stature was of a hustler. A timid's wife was bullied by everyone. A rich one's wife was a celebrity and a poor one's place was in the corner. Means more viscid the husband, more acclaimed the wife. Viscosity. Whatever.

In the annual of eighth, that girl Champa gave me the drubbing. She was first and I came second. Just by two marks. But then first was first. Her roll no. in the ninth became one and mine, two. Now I was jealous. At the same time a little happy. I was closer to her. Oh, Mrs. Chatterjee. At least my name will be written just under yours!

A year gone had taken out all shyness and formalities. All groups disbanded and it was now one class. Village identities were gone.
I started sitting in front. Champa 's right behind. Even if I was late, folks would give me the seat. There was now great competition between the two of us. I didn't know about her, I was dying of jealousy and competition and the fact that a girl beat me.

In the semi-annual of Ninth, I turned the table and snatched the top position. And that remained my position since. Until the very board exam of eleventh.

Her face was so shining that I was like a faint shadow compared to her. My clothes were not even shreds compared to her dresses. Overall she pretty much fit in the frame of Mrs. Chatterjee in my mind.

Anyway, she had become friends with me after I topped the class in ninth. I wasn't that bitter either, I was already the topper.
We remained friends for two more years. Being local, she used be before time and I was always late. Champa would keep a seat for me right behind hers. However, our friendship remained only friendship till the very end. Being close to someone like her was good enough for me. I told her about Mrs. Chatterjee. She burst out in laughter. I wouldn't ever forget that laughter. Every once in a while I used to call her Mrs. Chatterjee. I thought she felt good.
Unlike today, the schoolkids those days weren't so savvy. We were no exceptions. After the matriculation she had been married. To who and where I don't know. Nor did I need to.
By the time I landed in the officialdom of Bihar Government, it was sixteen years since my matriculation. About five years in service, I got an opportunity to visit Calcutta in on the occasion of Durgapooja. The kids were excited about visiting Calcutta and my wife about Durgapooja. On reaching Calcultta to my brother's house, I found his in-laws also there. I advised my sister-in-law,'My orderly can help in cooking.'
'Why? Don't I have my own hands.' Said she.
'No, no, I just proposed. So many people are there. If all you do is cooking, when will you enjoy the festival?' I insisted.
'Get out of your chieftanship mind here. I don't have your orderly any other day around, do I?. If I have invited you over I have made arrangements as well. I am not siting here waiting for your help.' Said she again.
'Alright! Do as you wish. God!' I looked at my brother.
My brother explained,'There is Munni's mom, someone from our place only. She will assist. Which is why so much aplomb. Or else alone what can she...''
'Yeah, right. Its you who does everything around here.' she murmured again.
Anyway, everything was going as planned. Ritual sacrifice was performed on the eighth day of the pooja. Mahaprasad (preparation of the sacrificial goat) was being cooked in the backyard. That Munni's mom was swamped with work. My wife was instructing her.
I went in and asked my wife,'how longer for dinner?'
'Just a little. I will bring you guys some fried liver in the meantime.' she replied.
'What's this covered in this corner?' I asked turning the caisson over.
'Oh, leave it alone, would you? Why do you have to look at everything anyway. Men don't need to poke their noses in everyhting now, do they? Go and wash your hand. Its impure now.' wife boasted.
'What is in it anyway?' Dithering I asked again promptly putting the cover back on.
'There is no treasure trove. There is the skin and some Mahaprasad. For Munni's mom. She asked for the skin. So its put aside for her. She will take it after we are done here.'
While my wife was explaining, Munni's mom brought water for me to wash my hand. Seeing her veiled, I whispered to my wife,'she is veiling herself from me as if she is a newcomer bride in the house.'
Wife whispered back,'just go away. Don't...'

When dining, commented my brother,'Munni's mom's hands are some kind of machine, eh! What a great Mahaprasad!'
I nodded in agreement.
Munni's mom had left with the skin for her home. I asked my sister-in-law,'What would she do with the skin?'
'What else? She would carve a drum out of it and send it to you to play!' she got irritated.
'Why can't you answer anything straight?'
'You talk rubbish, that's why. The skin will be boiled. Hair peeled out and they will cook and eat it for a couple of a days. I can't believe what kind of officer you are if you don't understand such trivia.'
Tipped my brother,'why, is he a leather department officer.'
Everybody burst out laughing.
Changing the topic I asked my sis-in-law,'So have you engraved this bedsheet yourself or bought it somewhere. Its nice.'
'You can take it if you want it. I will get another one done. Very skillful is Munni's mom. She has done it all.'
'Wow! Look's like you got yourself a genie in her.'
'That's actually right. She is always ready to do whatever is told. No greed she has. So nice. Its just her devil husband...'
'Why, what does he do?'
'What can he do? I have fixed him as an bookkeeper with a contractor. He is alright now. Earlier he had wrecked it all in drugs. Luckily my driver got to know and told me everything and so I could act in time.' explained my brother.
'What had happened?'
'He started a shop in Shyam bazaar in partnership with his in-law. Invested a lot. Business was good too. But then came the bad company and drugs and he ruined it all. They fought among themselves, him and in-law. Brawls, litigation, everything. Lastly, the in-law took hold of the shop and threw him out. He came virtually on the street with his family. Didn't even have a day's meal. From there, he has finally improved a lot. Quit the drugs. Somehow he is managing. I give clothes for all in his family like my own in the time of festivals. This lady is very admirable. Like the beauty in the hands of beast. She maintained her dignity even in the face of great adversity. No greed for anything at all. Works her back out to earn.' Listening to my brother's story, I was feeling sympathy and admiration at the same time.
I wasn't feeling well on the day of Dashhara (the tenth and final day of the pooja). When everyone else left for the festival, I bolted the door and fell asleep. I woke up on the sound of the ring-bell. Looked at the watch- it was half past five. Lying on my bed, I said, 'who's there?' No response. The bell rang again. I got up murmuring and opened the door. Munni's mom was standing. For the first time I had seen her from the front. Very exhausted looking face. Hair looked thin. The lips looked blackened. She was wearing a bengali shred saari. Hastily she covered her face. But behind this battered face, I could see what a stunning beauty she could have been once.

Moving aside , I said,'No one is there. Everyone is out to the festival'
'Yes, I know, Sir. Sister had told me to make tea for you on time. Can I?' Munni's mom said.
Her voice gave me an electric shock. I felt like I would fall down. I didn't say anything just down on the chair right on the patio. I couldn't notice when she went inside, made tea and brought it over. I was absorbed in investigating that voice.

'Tea is getting cold.' She said from inside the house.
Now I came round. Instead of taking tea, I asked her,'Could you come here in front of me?'
She came and stood on the patio.
'Where are you from'? Asked I.
'Jagati'.
'And native place?'
She didn't respond.
My suspicion increased.
'Where is your native place?' I asked again.
'Why would you want to know, Sir?'

'Don't call me 'Sir', Champa! I recognized you!' I screamed.

She sat down right there. I thought she was crying. I remained quiet for a few moments. I was stunned. Her ruinous story I already knew. I just had one question,'Champa, didn't you recognize me?'
'I could recognize you the very first day.'
'So why didn't you come out to me'?
'I don't have the capability anymore to equal with you.'
My courage was failing. I had no energy left to say or ask anything. She rose and left for her home.
I remembered the two lessons of school – 'Free India reader's Mrs. Chatterjee and the shapeless state of liquid. Put it in whichever vessel and it will take its shape. Marry Mrs. Chatterjee off to whoever and her 'viscousity' becomes like him.

The very next day, I left Calcutta.
(1994)

The Trumpet Player Of A Musical Band’s Accompaniments

English Translation of Gajendra Thakur's Maithili Poem

"शामिल बाजाक दुन्दभी वादक"

The Trumpet Player Of A Musical Band’s Accompaniments

Observing the note of a trumpet

Among the crowd of a band

Perceiving the scene of emptiness

Painted on the canvas of nature

Picture of a roaring ocean

Words of characters painted in a dark cave

No one can see the picture in this darkness

At least people can hear voice of my aspiration

Sailing yacht in the sea crossing the waves

Short of time to hear the sound they make

Viewing the musical notes of fluctuating waves

The lilting sea waves are countless

The indefinite sky doesn’t have any end

The oceans, by joining each other

Misapprehend to be endless

On the rotating round earth

An illusion of a gigantic whirl

But man triumphed over

The boundary of sea too

Measured its circumference

Is the illusion of sky limited?

Is there any end to this too?

Accept it endless unless proved

In viewing words

Hearing pictures

Crossing seas

Counting time-period-countries

Left viewing the

Pictures of the dark cave

Left listening to

Roar of the seas

Can see the voice and hear the picture

A strange sage

Joining the crowd of orchestra

Turned into a trumpet player

Of a musical band’s accompaniments

Note – In the street bands in Rajasthan, many musicians do play trumpet in order but at the same time many of them just pretend to play by bringing the trumpet to the mouth. These unskilled members of a band are instructed not to blow the trumpet in any case. Such musicians are addressed as band’s accompaniments.

Gajendra Thakur (b. 1971) is the editor of Maithili ejournal “Videha” that can be viewed at http://www.videha.co.in/ . His poem, story, novel, research articles, epic – all in Maithili language are lying scattered and is in print in single volume by the title “KurukShetram.” He can be reached at his email: ggajendra@airtelmail.in

Jyoti Jha Chaudhary, Date of Birth: December 30 1978,Place of Birth- Belhvar (Madhubani District), Education: Swami Vivekananda Middle School, Tisco Sakchi Girls High School, Mrs KMPM Inter College, IGNOU, ICWAI (COST ACCOUNTANCY); Residence- LONDON, UK; Father- Sh. Shubhankar Jha, Jamshedpur; Mother- Smt. Sudha Jha- Shivipatti. Jyoti received editor's choice award from www.poetry.com and her poems were featured in front page of www.poetrysoup.com for some period.She learnt Mithila Painting under Ms. Shveta Jha, Basera Institute, Jamshedpur and Fine Arts from Toolika, Sakchi, Jamshedpur (India). Her Mithila Paintings have been displayed by Ealing Art Group at Ealing Broadway, London.